Do-it-yourself tax software and online tax-preparation services are likely to cost more this year. First, the Internal Revenue Service has cut way back on the free help it allows at irs.gov. Last year, 16 private-sector providers gave away online tax-prep services through the IRS Free File program to all comers as a way to add high-income taxpayers to their customer ranks. No more. Under a new deal the companies negotiated with the IRS, only those filers with adjusted gross incomes of $49,582 or less will be eligible for the free services.
The top tax-prep programs also have gotten rid of the myriad rebates that cut your total outlay to as little as $10 last year if you bothered to fill out and submit up to four rebate forms. Instead, the most popular versions of Intuit's (INTU) TurboTax and H&R Block's (HRB) TaxCut now bundle 2005 federal and state software, along with a deduction tracker, into a single box that retails for $30 to $70, depending on the version. (Electronic filing costs extra, but TaxCut still offers a rebate to offset its $15 fee.) Don't worry, there are still freebies. This year, TurboTax will swap part of any refund for gift cards from more than 50 retailers at 10% to 50% off the face value. And, if you e-file with TaxCut, H&R Block will help you for free if you're audited, including representing you before the IRS.
Picking out new golf clubs based on hitting a few balls into a net in the back of the pro shop can result in expensive mistakes. But GolfClubDemo.com allows you to rent a set from TaylorMade (ADDDY), Nike (NKE), or four other leading clubmakers for a five-day tryout, letting you test them in real-life conditions on a course or range. GolfClubDemo's offerings include such popular clubs as the TaylorMade r7 Quad driver and Nike's Slingshot irons. The rental fee is just $25 (round-trip shipping included), which GolfClubDemo applies to the price if you purchase a similar set that's new. The only catch: If you don't return the clubs by the due date, GolfClubDemo charges a $5-per-day late fee -- and after another seven days, it will hit you up for the full purchase price of a new club or clubs, plus a 10% restocking fee.
BusinessWeek's Finance and Personal Business writers are joining the blogosphere. This month they are adding two new blogs to the growing list at the magazine's Web site, BusinessWeek.com. First is a new personal-finance entry, Investing Insights . On Jan. 24, Working Parents, an often personal account of how people balance the competing demands of job and family, makes its debut. To ensure that there are fresh postings every day, both blogs will feature a team of contributors. We hope you'll join in as well.
Although snarled in controversy over alleged purchases of pirated art and financial improprieties, Los Angeles' J. Paul Getty Museum is reopening its magnificent Getty Villa on Jan. 28 after a seven-year, $275 million renovation. The villa features a new outdoor caf?, Roman-style amphitheater, and entry pavilion, designed, says architect Jorge Silvetti, to give the feeling of an architectural dig. That's fitting since the villa focuses on Greek, Roman, and Etruscan antiquities. Reservations are required (getty.edu).